The Fifth Column

15th February 1998

Oh, Mangala, don’t resign

My dear Mangala,

I am writing to you in such a hurry because I was worried that, in keeping with current trends, you will also resign. I must strongly advise you not to, Mangala.

I suppose you know what I am talking about - those death threats received by our journalists recently, of course, where people come to your house in the middle of the night, point a gun at you and threaten to kill you and then go away. Since that happened, there have been many people condemning the attack, demanding your resignation and comparing the latest attack with what happened to Richard.

Now, all this is unnecessary, I think, and I can’t see what this fuss is all about.

In the bad old days, something actually happened. For example, Richard was killed. Now with your people, things are not that bad. They just come and warn you, point a gun and go away. So, as journalists, why do they complain?

Or else, they beat you up with a stick or send a wreath to your house. They call it “psychological warfare” and it’s all in the game, isn’t it. I mean you never meant to hurt anyone, did you? And, it is a genuine contrast from your body washing up at the beach the next day, so why do these chaps complain so much, I wonder.

You should not have any regrets, Mangala. You, of all people have ensured freedom of expression like no other. Anyone can say anything, now. How can they forget what SB said of Susanthika and what Susanthika said of SB and what you said of Susanthika? With all that, how can they say there is no freedom of expression?

And anyway, Mangala, you and I know there are other ways to deal with these media chaps. With criminal defamation laws you can always get what you want though you might find one odd fellow being discharged for one reason or the other. That again shows that there is a very independent judiciary, though, of course even Supreme Court judges like to be wined and dined occasionally at Temple Trees!

So, Mangala, you know what you must do. Issue a statement “strongly condemning” whatever that happened. Promise an impartial inquiry. Get Satellite to appoint a Commission if necessary. But for God’s sake don’t resign.

Resigning is dangerous, Mangala, because it is difficult for us to organise yet another set of supporters to protest against resigning, like we did for Anu. And, just imagine how difficult it will be for us to make an effigy of you - With Anu, you could just make a Pambaya, give him a commando suit and call him Anu, but that won’t work for you, would it?

So, take heart, Mangala, don’t be upset over these chaps messing up a simple assignment like terrorising a journalist. It took the greens more than a decade to perfect the art. So, we are still learning, aren’t we?

Yours truly

Punchi Putha

PS - You did a good job escorting old Charlie around the place, and I’m told you will get the job again when Uncle Mandela comes here next month. Why does Satellite keep picking you for all these divorced old chaps?

Right royal chaos

The six hour long state banquet for the Prince of Wales ended but the event has continued to remain a talking point.

The lady hostess wanted to make a grand show of the event but social and protocol requirements had made some things awry.

At the main table, were President Kumaratunga, Prince Charles and only some of her ministers and some of the visiting Foreign Ministers. And the choice, in this era of equality and equal status had become the ire of some.

There was Minister C.V. Gooneratne and not Kingsley Wickremaratne or even the loquacious Professor G.L. Peiris at the head table. One of them asked, “is it because CV is a Royalsit?” Well, if that’s the case, why not Mangala who is also a Royalist?

Not only that. He brushed shoulders with His Royal Highness being the minister in attendance. Another asked whether Minister Thondaman and not his minority cabinet colleague Ashraff was accommodated because of the then impending estate strike?

Opposition leader Ranil Wickremesinghe found himself at the end of the U-shaped head table, next to the British envoy.

Maldivian Foreign Mister Fathulla Jameel and his wife were given the main table, but most other foreign ministers from SAARC and NAM and special envoys were put at other neighbouring tables.

What a diplomatic confusion a royal gala can sometimes become?You have all of them together or not.

And for the other yakkos — they were at another wing of the Presidential Palace where they could not see the charming prince and equally charming president.

Ms. B’s dpl charm

He played tour guide wheeling around our VIP guests for the golden jubilee early this month — NAM foreign ministers, deputies and special envoys.

Foreign Minster Lakshman Kadirgamar, it turned out, though an excellent lawyer and accomplished foreign minister, was not the best guide lecturer.

At Rosmead Place, the VIPs were introduced to the Grand Old Dame of the Non-aligned Movement, Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the only surviving founder leader besides Prince Norodom Sihanouk.

When Mr. Kadirgamar introduced Ms. Bandaranaike as one of the leaders present at Belgrade at 1964, it drew a quick response from Ms. Bandaranaike. “No, no, it’s 1962,” she said proving once again she was both alert and agile despite a nagging foot problem.

Foreign Minister Gohar Ayub Khan reminisced with Ms. Bandaranaike about his late father Ayub Khan, the military strongman of Pakistan. “You look so much like your handsome father,” she told the beaming Gohar.

When the foreign minister of Zambia was introduced, Ms. Bandaranaike inquired, “how is Kaunda?” That did not see a comfortable foreign minister. Kaunda, one time Zambian President, is now under house arrest for allegedly attempting to plot against the government.

“Please look after him,” said Ms. Bandaranaike and the Zambian colleagues teased him all the way back to his hotel saying now they can’t touch the dapper Kaunda.

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